Owners Old Mutual have confirmed that the 11-storey Barbican, which was the city’s first skyscraper when it was built in 1929, will be restored in November.
Old Mutual’s property investor, Lindsay Butler, said: “The funding was approved a week ago, so it’s all systems go.”
Architect and historic building enthusiast Brian McKechnie told The Times that “Old Mutual mothballed plans for the building in the 1990s and left it neglected. It has been empty for 10 to 15 years.” Recently, vandals broke down a brick wall that was blocking an entrance to the building. French doors and railings on the balconies were removed. Architect Robin Fee said that vandals had lit fires on the wooden floors. Graffiti on one side of the building stretches to the second floor.
McKechnie said it was wrong to ‘‘sit back, as a historic landmark was literally demolished before people’s eyes”.
Hans Jooste from the Central Johannesburg Partnership, responsible for the City Improvement Districts, said the state the building was in ‘‘was having a very negative impact in the area”.
Jooste said in the past, the “beautiful building” was a popular retail shopping hub, with offices occupying the top four storeys. The building has a boiler room, gas fireplaces in offices, Corinthian pillars, marble fittings and bay windows. Because of its historical value, the building is protected under the National Heritage Resources Act.
Butler said the building does not lend itself to modern-day use of commercial space. Building restoration plans are intended to attract commercial tenants.
He said that preserving the Barbican is a priority.